David Jeremiah - The Quest for a Perfect Mate
The book of the Song of Solomon, as you know, is the story of Solomon's romance with a young country girl by the name of Shulamithe. That's kind of what we've called her, Shulamithe. Solomon, the king of Israel, and a country girl, and this very, very romantic relationship. And we've traced it now through the dating and courtship process, and we're just at the end of the courtship of Solomon and Shulamithe. And we're going to look together today at the second chapter of the Song of Solomon, and beginning at verse 8 through the end of the chapter.
A young boy grew up in a small town. One day, he went to the lone drugstore in his community, shopping. And the boy told the druggist that he wanted to buy three boxes of candy. He wanted a 1-pound box, a 3-pound box, and a 5-pound box. He would like to have them all gift-wrapped, and he'd be back in an hour to pick them up. When he returned an hour later, he went to the counter to pay for the candy, and sure enough, they were gift-wrapped. They put them in a nice bag, and the druggist said to him, he said, "Son, I don't want to be nosy," but he said, "this is a strange, a very strange request".
He said, "We don't get requests like that. Would you mind telling me what this is all about"? And the young man said, "Absolutely, I'd be happy to tell you. I'm so excited, sir". He said, "I have a date tonight with the cutest girl in the whole school. And we're going to go to her parents' house for dinner, and we're going to sit out on the porch on the swing afterwards. And sir, if she lets me hold her hand, I'm going to give her the 1-pound box of candy. And if she lets me put my arm around her, I'm going to give her the 3-pound box. And if she lets me kiss her goodnight, she's going to get the 5-pound box of candy".
So that night, he went to the home of the cutest girl in his school to have dinner with her and her parents. And as they sat at the table, the girl's father asked him if he would say the blessing. And he prayed, and he prayed. He prayed all around the world. He prayed for every missionary whose name he had ever heard. He prayed for world peace. He prayed for all the military. He prayed and prayed and prayed until he was totally exhausted from praying, and couldn't think of another thing to say, and he said, "Amen". And the young girl looked at him and she said, "I had no idea you were so religious". And he said, "I had no idea your father was the druggist".
So, you have to be careful in this thing called love, don't you? We've been following the romance of the Old Testament couple Solomon and Shulamithe. And while they didn't have the advantage of the Internet, they seemed to be doing quite well. As we reconnect with their story, they're still in the courtship part of their relationship. When we last left them, they were in Solomon's palace. And Shulamithe was being introduced to the royalty scene. And now, the scene has shifted, and they are now back in the country, in Shulamithe's house, if you will. Their wedding is just a few days away, and they are still trying to learn as much about each other as possible. Shulamithe is totally head over heels in love with Solomon. But she's still observing, she's still trying to learn what she can, trying to determine how it would be to live with this great, powerful man.
Perhaps she can still not believe that she's going to be his wife. Her mind is filled with questions. And, in essence, this section of Scripture for all of us here today is sort of a tutorial on the kinds of questions that ought to be asked and answered before marriage takes place. In some respects, these questions will continue to be asked and continue to be answered throughout marriage. There are four of them here with some sub-questions under each of them. Let's go through them, and not only keep up with the story of Solomon and Shulamithe, but apply these things to ourselves as well, from the pastor right down to the young person who's contemplating someday getting married, the Lord willing. First question, does he spend time with you? And we'll phrase these questions as if they were all related to Solomon, although there is some interchange here between the two of them. Does he spend time with you? Sub-question, is he excited about you?
Song of Solomon 2:8, "The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills. My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag". Now, 5 times in verses 8 through 17, Shulamithe refers to Solomon as "my lover". It's a tender love affair that's been growing between these two for some time, and their hearts are being knit together. And as she hears Solomon's voice in the hills, she is filled with anticipation and joy. She hears his voice calling to her as he came for her. She compliments his physical prowess, leaping and bounding, she says. His attractiveness like a gazelle or a young stag, honored for strength and form and beauty.
Solomon is pictured here as walking through the mountain terrain between Jerusalem and Shunem, where the Shulamite lived. He is dancing, and leaping, and jumping. And all I could think of when I read these words this week were the hills are alive with the sound of music. Solomon is coming for her. She was excited, and he was excited about her. He did not care who heard that he called out to her. And these verses are so pivotal in this relationship that, believe it or not, they're repeated again at the very end of the Song of Solomon. If you went clear to the end of the eighth chapter, you read something like this, "You who dwell in the gardens, the companions listen for your voice; let me hear it! Make haste, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains spices".
So let me ask you a question. This person you are thinking of spending your life with, do they seem excited about you? Isn't it interesting that we all kind of come to marriage through our own personality types? And there are some people, some laid back people, who get married like it was the next appointment on their schedule. But most people, even those kind of folks, when it comes to marriage, it's a pretty exciting thing. You know, I have memories of not being able to eat very much the week before we got married, and being nervous, and being excited. And is that true? You know, the statement I'm making has got a counterpart to it, and that is if there isn't any excitement about your marriage going into it, you might be headed into a pretty difficult life.
Here's the second part of this first question: is he enchanted by you? That's even stronger, and I want it to be stronger. Notice the end of the ninth verse, "Behold, he stands behind our wall; he is looking through the windows, gazing through the lattice". Solomon has now gotten to Shulamithe's house. And at first glance, it sounds like he's turned into a peeping Tom. But that's not true. He's looking through the lattice into her home, trying to just get a glimpse of her, hoping to see her before she sees him. And Shulamithe sees Solomon standing behind her wall, looking for her, trying to find her in his gaze. And this is the woman of his dreams. And in just a few days, they'll be married.
Page Patterson, the president of Southwestern Seminary, has written a little book on the Song of Solomon. And right here, he makes this comment, "Solomon looked in through the small windows, showing himself playfully through these windows. He quickly disappeared and moved along the wall. Suddenly, he showed himself fully through the latticework," and they're playing a little game of hide and seek here, these lovers. And there's a sense of enchantment about this relationship. They're enchanted with each other. You know, we take the blush off of marriage, don't we? We make it so sophisticated and so, so studious that we forget that it's supposed to be like this. It's supposed to be exciting, it's supposed to be enchanting. Never apologize for that. That's the way God created it. It's the most exciting thing you can ever know in life, only to be topped one day by seeing the Lord Jesus Christ face to face, and enter into a relationship for eternity in his presence.
So here's the question: does he spend time with you? Does she spend time with you? Let me tell you something I've learned. If they don't want to spend time with you before your marriage, you have got a real difficult time thinking they'll ever spend time with you after your marriage. They're on good report right now. You're seeing the best there is. And that doesn't mean it's downhill after marriage, but it means reality sets in, can I get a witness? Question number two, does he speak tenderly to you? Notice in verses 10 through 14, we have this most amazing little soliloquy. We've been learning during these early messages that men have a more difficult time expressing themselves than women. All of us agree of that. Men agree, and the women sure do agree.
One man I heard expressed it this way. He said, "When my daughters call, I say only three things. 'How's the weather? Need any money? Here's your mother'". We do. And women are totally different than that. A woman can talk on the phone for 30 minutes. And when you ask her who it was, she says, "I don't know, they got the wrong number". That's just women. I mean, they can talk to anybody. We're not put together that way. Someone has said that women communicate better because they're smarter than men. I mean, maybe that's true, just think of it for a moment. A woman's best friend is diamonds, and a man's best friend is a dog. I mean, what can you say about that? There's got to be some truth in that. Does he evidence his loyalty to you?
Notice verses 10 and following, "My beloved spoke, and said to me, 'Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away!'" Twice, Solomon speaks tenderly of his love for Shulamithe. He calls her "my love," he calls her "my darling". He twice calls her "beautiful, my fair one". Solomon didn't just assume that Shulamithe knows how he feels. He just kept telling her over and over again. I have never heard of one time when a woman said to her husband at the end of the day, "You have been way too sweet to me today. You've told me you love me too many times, and you've got to back off, honey. This is just not good".
That doesn't happen, does it? What does that mean? It means you can never tell the one you love too often how much you love them. You'll notice in this wonderful set of lyric poems, that's the genius of this whole thing, the communication between the two of these people. And then does he expose his life to you? Does he evidence his loyalty to you? Does he say, "You're mine, and I'm yours, and we're together, and this is great"? And does he expose his life to you? And I think this is one of the most subtle things in this passage, and I don't want you to miss it. "For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; and the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. And the fig tree puts forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grapes give a good smell".
Some years ago, I took the time to study the entire life of Solomon, from his birth all the way through to his death. He is certainly one of the most enigmatic characters and unusual personalities in the history of the world. When you examine his life, you discover he was a builder, he was a governor, he was a leader, he was a financial genius, he was a military leader, he was an author. But what most people are not aware of is the fact that he was also a scientist. He was a man who was, according to the Bible, the wisest man who ever lived, and he was a student of the world that God had created for him to live and walk in. In 1 Kings chapter 4 and verse 33, we read this about Solomon, "Also he spoke of trees, from the cedar tree of Lebanon even to the hyssop that springs out of the wall; and he spoke of animals, and of birds, and of creeping things, and of fish".
Solomon was an expert in natural history, in zoology, in ornithology, in botany. He was really the world's first great naturalist. And his references to nature are found in all of his writings, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, and the Song of Solomon. And now, you begin to understand some of the language in this book. Solomon is speaking out of his great human love to his bride to be. And the thing that he knows and the thing that he knows to describe to her are the things that he has lived in, and he has studied. And he's a scientist, and he loves the flowers, and he loves the seasons, and he loves the rain, and he loves all of the things that are a part of nature. And he incorporates those things into his statements to this woman. In essence, what he is doing is he is taking her and her life as a country girl from the hills of Lebanon, and drawing her into his life, richly describing, in detail, everything that he knows will ultimately be meaningful to her.
In his commentary on the Song of Solomon, Danny Akin writes, "Solomon was an atypical man when it came to romance. He understood that the way to a woman's heart is often in the details, the little things. And Solomon invites Shulamithe to take a walk with him in the countryside. She would have found this very romantic. Furthermore, the details with which he described the passing of winter and the coming of spring are startling, especially for a man. His attention to detail is a model for all men everywhere. It is quite likely that Solomon's elaborate description has a double focus. For instance, springtime is universally a time for love. Falling in love is like experiencing springtime all over again. Everything is fresh and new and alive. Things simply look different when you're in love. And for this young couple in love, winter and the rainy days were gone. Flowers were blooming, birds were singing, and spring was in the air. And you could see it and smell it, and love could be found everywhere you looked".
End of quote. In the details. Solomon wanted her to know everything he could communicate to her about himself. You know, one of the things that's so interesting to me is that couples sometimes come and say, "Well, there was a whole different part of his life I never even heard of, I didn't even know about before". And I know that sometimes, you don't remember to say everything you should about yourself, but my friends, when you're going to spend forever together, you'd best reveal yourself to the person you're asking to commit to you. Let them know who you are, bring them into your life, include them in the details of who you are. And that's for the men and for the women. And my experience has been that gals do that a lot better than men do.
And I know some of you guys think I'm picking on you because I'm picking on me. We all have to work at this. This is not something that we just do naturally, do we? We have to work at this. Does he evidence loyalty to you? Does he expose his life to you? Number C, does he express his love to you? Notice verse 14, here's Solomon doing his scientific thing in expressing love, "O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely".
Most people believe these words actually belong to Shulamithe, but as I told you in the beginning, these are all kind of interchangeable the way you would describe yourself and your love to one another. If these really are her words, she sees Solomon looking at her through the lattice of her home, and she calls out to him. She desires to see him more clearly. She wants to see his face, and she describes his face, and she says, "Your face is lovely". And she compares Solomon, now, she's giving back to him some of his own medicine. She says, "Solomon, you're like a dove," literally like a rock pigeon. The rock pigeon is noted for its propensity to build its nest in the towering, craggy places of the rocks, totally away from any life or humanity. And Shulamithe, if this is indeed her words, is telling Solomon that she longs to be alone with him in an isolated place, far from any intrusion into their relationship. What sweet words. Could you imagine so much romance is caught up in the description of a rock pigeon? Only Solomon and his lover could accomplish that in that time.
Now, before we go on to the next paragraph in the story, I want to file one last report, if I can, on the importance of communication in marriage. And I want to remind you again that we came into this study on the Song of Solomon, all of us kind of worried this book is totally about sex. And there's sex in here, and we've touched on it some, and it gets a little steamier as we go along. But the vast majority of the book of the Song of Solomon is about the reality of love. And the reality of love, my friends, is not just sex.
The reality of love is the communication process, the relationship that you develop between this person that God has called you to be with as your marriage partner. In the same ratio that you find intimacy in this book, compared to everything else, that's about the normal relationship. So yes, work on the intimate part of your relationship, but don't forget in the process of doing that to work on the everyday relationship. There are so many couples who tell us they have almost no meaningful conversation during the day. It's all functional information. But there's no sharing of the details, there's no giving of one's heart. And that's what we have to work on if we're going to build strong marriages.
Craig Glickman has written these words, "One good indication of real love is the desire to communicate, a wish to discover all about this person whom you love so much. No detail seems too trivial to be related. No mood or feeling of one is unimportant to the other. And you care about the details and the feelings because you care so much about that person. And that which would be insignificant or boring to even a good friend is eagerly embraced with genuine interest by the one who loves you. The mere voice of that loved one is enchantingly special just in itself. One could read from the telephone book, and the other would raptly listen just to hear the sound of her voice. Oh, the voices of our loved ones, how precious they are to us".
The summer before Donna and I got engaged, I was traveling with a quartet all over the eastern part of the United States. There were five of us guys traveling, representing Cedarville College. We were the college quartet, and we sang in different churches every night for the whole summer. We were able to earn some of our tuition doing that, and we just had a ball. You can't imagine how much fun that was. And Donna and I were really serious, we were planning engagement and marriage, and I knew I wasn't going to see her very much. She went back to Cleveland to work. We knew we would not be with each other but maybe two or three times the whole summer, so we made a commitment. We made a commitment that we would write a letter to each other every single day.
I think that was a lot easier for her to make a commitment to that than it was to me. But I want to tell you something, we kept the commitment. And it was so interesting to me, I don't know how she ever did this, but she found out where I was going to be singing. She got the itinerary, and it was so great because when I'd show up at the next church, the pastor would come and tell me, "Oh, there's some mail for you". And oh yeah, I knew who that was from. Nobody wrote to me that whole summer but her. And when I got those letters, sometimes two or three would show up because you couldn't always gather, you know, sometimes they'd have to get forwarded. Before I wouldn't do anything else, before I would help set up, before I'd unload the trailer, before I'd get to the host, I'd get those letters and find a quiet corner in the church, and I'd open them up and I'd read them. Not just once, I'd read them two or three times. And believe it or not, I still have all of them.
You've heard the story, haven't you, about the little boy whose mother came home from work one day, and she said, "What have you been doing all day, honey"? He said, "Well, mom, I've been playing postman". "Oh," she said, "what did you do"? He said, "Well," he said, "Mommy, I found a whole bundle of letters in your closet wrapped up in a pink ribbon, and I delivered one of those letters to every house on our block". So what I want to tell you folks is I have all those letters, but they're in a safe place, where no one will ever find them but me. But once in a while, I pull one of them out, and I read it, and I remember that she wanted to know every detail about every concert. And I wanted to know every detail about every day of work. Because when you're in love, you care about the details. Isn't that just a simple thought?
So guys, when you come home from work and your wife says to you, "What did you do today"? share the details as much as you can. I mean, maybe you have to wait a little bit until some of the emotional, if you had a bad day, maybe eat supper, you know, relax a little bit, and then tell her. But, you know, there's hardly anything in our marriage that I don't know of anything that we don't share together. And that's what brings you together as a couple, communication. Does he spend time with you? Does he speak tenderly to you? And probably I should say he or she because it goes either way.
Number three, does he share trials with you? Verse 15, "Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes". Now, you remember foxes, or sometimes referred to as jackals, were very much a part of the culture of that time. I told you the story of the day when Samson caught a great number of foxes, and tied their tails together, and lit them on fire, and sent them out into the fields of the Philistines, and they burned down all their crops. These foxes, these little jackals, were totally destructive of the crops in Israel. Not just when they were at the other end of Solomon's torch, but when the season was ripe for harvest, especially the fruit crops and the grape crops, the little foxes would come in. And if they were in a band, they could wipe out a whole field in a very short time.
Those who cared for the fields were constantly setting traps for them, warding them off in order to preserve the crops because it was the little foxes that spoiled the crops. And metaphorically here in this text, the little foxes represent the little problems that creep into a marriage relationship and destroy it. Shulamithe urges Solomon to be on guard against the little things that could destroy their love relationship. Chuck Swindoll has written, "I'm convinced it's not the big things that weaken a marriage. On the contrary, big problems frequently strengthen marriages. The loss of a job, sudden illness, the death of a child, a long absence because of military service, these more than often deepen our love and enhance our relationship. It's the little things, it's the slow leaks, not the blowouts, the insidious pests we seldom even consider that cut away at the heart of a home until it crumbles, and two people end up walking away".
I have to give you this testimony, and I think I speak for all of us here today, we can always handle the big stuff. But man, those little things that creep in, those little foxes. Anger can be a little fox. Anger, you can allow anger to enter into a relationship, maybe build on something that happened in your life in the past, has nothing to do with your marriage. But you allow it, and you don't deal with it. And that little fox, pretty soon it's like what can happen in a marriage. I think one of the other little foxes that lead to marital problems is this whole idea of the my way strategy, my way or the highway. This is the most popular, "I'm right. Do you agree with me, or are you wrong"? That's kind of how it works. It's like the lady who prayed at breakfast, "Please make my husband right today because, Lord, you know he will never change his mind".
This is the little fox of the person who always has to be right. One couple had been arguing about anything and everything for years. They were tired of living in a perpetual state of conflict. And finally, the woman told her husband about the prayer she was praying. She said, "I've been asking God to help us stop all of this arguing by taking one of us to heaven. And when he answers my prayer, I'm moving in with my sister". Figure that one out if you will. Hebrews chapter 12 gives us a little hint of what a fox is like in a relationship. Listen to this, "Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God," now watch this, "lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and many become defiled".
What is Hebrews talking about here? Did you know what resentment and bitterness is? Resentment and bitterness is anger gone underground. It is suppressed anger that you push down and don't deal with. And the problem with that is it doesn't go away. And at the most inappropriate and sometimes most difficult moment, it explodes from underground, often into the face of someone you care deeply about. And while you can say those words, you can never stuff them back in your mouth. And that's why it's so important if you have an issue of anger or bitterness, you learn how to deal with it because it could be the little fox that destroys the vine. One thing final about the little foxes, Shulamithe describes the vines as in bloom or ripe. In other words, they were vulnerable to the attack.
And I need you to know, friends, that Satan is out to destroy our marriages. When you see the rampant divorce statistics, that isn't from God, that's from Satan. Satan wants to destroy our marriages. And that doesn't mean if you're in a divorce or remarriage situation, it's satanic, I'm not saying that at all. I'm just saying that God's purpose for you is to have joy and oneness in your marriage, and Satan hates that. He hates anything that brings joy to God. And he will do all in his power to sow discord between you and the one you love. So don't be cocky. Don't say, "It can never happen to me". Be on guard against the little foxes that can destroy the vines. Number four, does he strengthen trust in you? "My beloved is mine, and I am his. He feeds his flock among the lilies. Until the day breaks and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or a young stag upon the mountains of Bether". This is all about oneness.
Notice, "My beloved is mine, and I am his". These expressions of mutual possession are recorded again in chapter 6 of the Song of Solomon verse 3, and in chapter 7 of the Song of Solomon and verse 10. Three times in these eight chapters, we read these phrases, "My beloved is mine, and I am his". Say that with me, "My beloved is mine, and I am his". The attitude of mutuality and responsibility is at the center of any successful marriage. Paul wrote about it in his letter to the Corinthians. He wrote about it as an introduction to a very important principle about sexuality in marriage. Here on his words from 1 Corinthians chapter 7, "Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does".
The willingness to share one's deepest self with another is at the core of marriage. And it is surely what was intended by God when he gave us the blueprint for marriage in the book of Genesis. Here's what we read, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh". One. Oneness in marriage. Unity out of singularity.
A young woman brought her fiancé home to meet her parents. After dinner, her mother told her father to find out about this young man, what's he all about. So the father invited the fiancé into his study for a talk. "So, what are your plans, son"? the father asked the young man. "Well," he said, "I'm a biblical scholar". "A biblical scholar, hmm," said the father. "That's admirable, but what will you do to provide a nice house for my daughter to live in"? "I will study," the young man replied, "and God will provide for us". "And children," said the father, "how will you support children"? "Don't worry, sir, God will provide," said the fiancé. And the conversation proceeded like this through all the questions the father wanted to ask. Each time the father questioned him, the young idealist insisted that God would provide. Later, the mother asked her husband, "Honey, how did it go in there"? "Well," he said, "the boy has no plans, and no job, and he thinks I'm God".
But soon, that naïveté is challenged by the realities of marriage, two individuals from different backgrounds and family histories coming together as one. Marriage, in my estimation, is like the unity candle displayed in so many marriages these days. If you've never seen it, let me tell you how it works. Three candles, two short ones on the outside, representing the bride and the groom as individuals. One taller one in the center, representing their marriage. The three candles are placed at the front of the church. At a time early in the ceremony, someone lights the outside candles, leaving the one in the middle unlit. The two lit candles represent the bride and groom before the wedding. They walk into the church separately, they are still single. The moment the bride and the groom say their vows before God, however, they're not single anymore. They're married. They're united, and the two become one.
So after saying their vows, the husband and the wife approach the three candles. They take the individual candles from the outside out of the holder and, together, they bring them to the candle in the middle, and they light the middle candle, and they snuff out the candles that were lit in the first place. The symbolism is beautiful, and it is obvious. No longer will their lights burn just for themselves alone. No longer will they live as two single people. Instead, they will enjoy one brighter light, a light that represents the oneness in their marriage. Oneness is the strength of marriage. It is the place where the couple becomes stronger than they could ever be by themselves.
And when you understand marriage as God has given it to us in his Word, it is the most wonderful thing because, in marriage, one plus one doesn't add up to two. It adds up to four or five because two of you together are so much more powerful than you could ever be by yourselves. But you have to be one. I want to tell you something. The biggest adjustment you will ever have in your life is the adjustment of coming from your background and she from hers. It's one of the reasons why you need to ask all the questions you can before you get married. And in that moment when you become one, that oneness is the secret of what God has intended for you. It is what he had in mind when he said, "It is not good for man to be alone," and he created marriage. And all through this series, I've been telling you that marriage, as wonderful as it is, is never truly complete until that marriage is complete in Christ.
You may be here today having come here with your spouse, or having been invited by a friend. While you're really, really excited about marriage, you've never put trust in Christ. So you're trying to do a divine thing in human strength. So let me go back to the candles again and give you one more picture, if you will. This is not about marriage, this is just about you and Almighty God. Take one of the side candles out, we don't need that because this is not two coming, this is just you. You can't know God as a couple, you have to know him individually. Here in the center is the tall candle, here is your candle over here, the smaller one. In this ceremony, the tall candle is already lit. This is God: he is the light of the world.
And the Bible tells us that Almighty God, on a day in history, bent down to light our candles for us, and will only do it if we will lift up our candle and submit it to his light. And when we do, the light of Almighty God becomes the light of your life and my life. And now, as a person connected with God through Jesus Christ, you bring so much more to your marriage, not just your humanity, but you bring the presence of the Holy Spirit and Almighty God living within your heart. And if you are blessed to have a partner like that, now you have something to really shout about. Oh, does that mean you won't have problems? Oh no, it just means you've got an ally in the solution of the problems. Marriage is not, for a Christian, two people coming together. As you remember from the triangle, marriage is a three-dimensional affair. God is at the center, and we are joined together with one another and with him.